House passes Ohio Computer Crimes Act

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 22, 2021

COLUMBUS — The Ohio House of Representatives passed the Ohio Computer Crimes Act, or House Bill 116, this week. The act, sponsored by State Rep. Brian Baldridge, R-90, will reduce the frequency of cyber-crimes by updating and modernizing Ohio’s computer crimes laws.

“As technology continues to evolve, we need the Ohio Revised Code to continue to protect Ohioans online,” Baldridge said. “Cybercriminals are hurting both private citizens and small businesses, and this bill will give Ohioans the ability to protect themselves.”

Currently, the prosecution of cybercriminals in Ohio law is damages-based, meaning the value of the impacted computer-related items determines the severity of the penalty. The damages-based model is not reflective of the harm caused to businesses, however, noted Baldridge.

H.B. 116 will achieve three main goals:

• Help Ohio prosecutors swiftly prosecute cybercriminals without trying to prove and calculate damages using limited and outdated statutes;

• Recognize new categories of cybercrime; and

• Extend a variety of stricter charges for prosecutors to pursue.

The Ohio Computer Crimes Act is a follow-up to Senate Bill 220, enacted in the 132nd General Assembly, which provided an affirmative defense from civil action for businesses who proactively invest in a cybersecurity program. Under H.B. 116, both private citizens and businesses will be allowed to bring a civil action against a person convicted of violating the law and may receive compensatory damages, attorney fees or other equitable relief.

Baldridge also noted that Attorney General Dave Yost has highlighted this issues in his continued warning to Ohioans of scams and phishing schemes.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, bad actors have used a crisis as an opportunity to invade our privacy and steal our information,” Baldridge said. “I’d like to thank the many interested parties who have been a part of crafting this legislation, and I look forward seeing this important bill move through the legislature.”

H.B. 116 will now head to the Senate for further consideration.